Archive for July, 2010

REPOST :: Solar Nation – Why We Advocate

This deserves repeating, especially since the USA energy bill recently went ‘pear-shaped.’ [Thanks for the fruity analogy Rens.]

Solar Nation — Why We Advocate

[snip]

We beat the drum for solar energy and all the reasons why it makes sense – energy independence, climate regulation, clean energy, sustainability and more – because we want our elected legislators to hear something other than the sound of money falling into their war chests.  And we work for the day when those legislators turn to their deep-pocket corporate contributors and say (apologetically) that they would like to oblige them on this upcoming vote, but there are so many voters in their districts demanding action on clean energy that, for once, they have to do what the people want.

A Neo-Malthusian speaks

I used to rag on my friends not to have children these days, because I thought they were being selfish. I thought this due to the legacy being left to them that they will have to mop-up. I think it’s highly unlikely (in my opinion) they will be able to enjoy the quality of life my generation has been privileged and accustomed. Then a pal flipped the coin on me. He said, at least he was producing progeny that would be intelligent enough to be able to mop-up the mess. Um, yeah, I feel this.

Right, Malthus argued that as population grows exponentially, as it will if left unchecked, the eventually it will outstrip resources available to provide for the future inhabitants. Some have argued that he was wrong, since we are ‘apparently’ still okay, still here, and still growing.

Neo-Malthusians like me, er environmental scientists/engineers, have a different attitude. It’s all about the fact that nature has only a finite ability to assimilate our anthropogenic exacerbations brought on by all the human inhabitants trying to grow food, extract and use energy, etc. Straight-up, nature is overwhelmed by all this human activity and the carrying capacity of Mother Earth is compromised. We need sustainability development ‘in tha houz.’

Look at climate instability for one. I mean it’s as simple as connecting this dot, that weather forecasters fail to present to the lay public. So, I often find myself posing these questions to my pals who are not attuned to this flux, “Have you noticed that the hottest time of the day in the N. Hemisphere/USA tends to be late in the afternoon, or near 6 p.m.? Do you wonder why that is?” So many missed opportunities by authorities to look at the BIGGER picture scenario and educating those who would be unwilling and unwitting to change their behaviour.

And then there’s the notion of consumption. I believe that as a population of high-consumers increases, that this will cause more problems than an increasing population of low consumers. I think it is equally important to encourage not only families from rich nations to reduce, recycle and reuse, but to enable, empower and teach families from poor countries the same.

I dunno. This rift between folks who genuinely care about our space ship Earth, and all the souls that ride this space ship all troubles me. And then, just the other day a pal of mine had no problem with the notion that once we’ve completed trashing our ‘home’ here, that it was acceptable to ‘punt’, attaining escape velocity to points beyond our stratosphere-mesosphere. Leaving this mess to be mopped up to those disenfranchised ones, and quite alright to create new messes ‘elsewhere.’ I am duly troubled. Woe is the fate of our spaceship…

A challenging contradiction on the Ecological + Societal Performance vs. Financial Performance

OR… Does addressing the TBL in VC circles incorporate sustainability development?

Most of the citizens of Earth understand humanity is approaching limits. In the EU, a great deal of companies understand they have a responsibility, AND the ability to exert positive change on the world’s economy, environmental and social conditions. Sadly, it has been my experience that this cultural understanding is not yet pervasive in the USA.

In terms of the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), the goal is to expand the traditional reporting framework to take into account not only financial performance, but ecological and societal, as well. But, we seem to have a challenging contraction when it comes to the role of the venture capitalist (VC). Yes, traditionally, a company’s responsibility lies with shareholders, the owners for profit, not stake holders or those who are influenced directly/indirectly by a company’s actions.

Indeed, this is nothing new, and has been a legacy since (wo)man has been trading/selling. And altho I hesitate using this terminology rooted in academia, I think we actually do require a serious paradigm shift at this juncture in time–something on the order of a Manhattan Project for the 21st century that is mindful to nature and the way nature operates whilst preserving as much of the quality of life so many are accustomed.

So, I have recently been in contact with some folks in the VC arena and posed the following to them. I asked:

To the best of their knowledge if there any discussions occurring in VC circles to change his challenging contraction?

I have some ideas on how this can be accomplished from a sustainability development standpoint, but it requires embracing a social democratic position, as well as developing models that involve public organizations, similar to efforts of what’s embraced in the EU e.g. de Stoere Houtman Housing Collective in Arnhem, NL, etc.

Other industrial examples: In DE, Festo [see bottom of the page view]. In the USA, Rumsey Engineers – Peter Rumsey is a vanguard on designing and implementing energy efficiency designs in the industrial sector with seven LEED Platinum buildings, and clients such as PG&E, Ford Motor Company, Seagate and the NRDC. “Rumsey Engineers, one of only three firms worldwide with five or more LEED Platinum certified projects…” – http://cleanroom.net/?p=2803 Rumsey Engineers is testimony that energy efficiency measures can be implemented here in the USA.

BTW:  The last time I checked-in with Peter Rumsey a couple of weeks ago, he shared with me his firm has seven platinum LEED rated buildings to their credit.

In my world, investigating mitigating risk along with creating opportunities, be they financial or knowledge-based, in the sustainability development arena ain’t nothin’ but a thang–and, it should not require waiting for heaps of painful scenarios to justify a proactive, monetary, up-front investment.

An interesting aside: The current efforts of the oil lobby’s misguided attempts to undermine California’s AB32 bill, who’s provisions are slated to take effect 1 January 2011, baffles the mind. Former Secretary of State, Levi Strauss & Co., Waste Management, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, NRDC, Environmental Defense Fund, Google, Serious Materials and Bloom Energy know a good policy when they see it. Read more here.

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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

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